A Few Questions On Roy, Geelani, Kashmir etc.

by Ritwik on November 2, 2010

I’ve been thinking of writing on Roy, Geelani and Kashmir for some time now. Hopefully you’ll see a deeper argument later on in another post.

For the time being, I am tossing out a few questions that have come to my mind. Before I begin, let me state that I stand for the freedom of speech and thus any ideas of booking Roy,Geelani etc for their statements are absurd and I oppose that. In fact the law of sedition requires a serious re-look if you ask me. On the other hand, I have very serious reservations about Arundhati Roy. It’s hard for me to take Geelani seriously because I am not in the habit of paying close attention to religious fanatics.

Now for the queries:

1. It is reported that in her speech at the gathering in Delhi, Roy mentioned that she “stands for” the Kashmiri Pandits who have been driven out of their homeland. She reiterates this in her premature letter condemning her possible arrest [“pity the nation” blah blah]. Okay so my first question is this: Why was Ms. Roy sharing a stage with a person (Geelani) whose politics is responsible for the exodus of the pandits in the first place? When was the last time she shared a stage with a senior functionary of the Indian Government, which in her view, has been responsible for the holocaust, the black plague, Indonesian tsunami etc?

2.  Roy has been saying for some time that India is a “Hindu Upper Caste State”. A lot of her defenders use arguments that implicitly seem to accept the truth of this assertion. Let us discuss this. On what parameters is India a “Hindu Upper Caste State” ? Do the so-called upper castes enjoy any codified privileges in state institutions or state supported educational institutions? Are important posts in the state machinary reserved for upper caste hindus? Symbolically, a sikh prime minister, more than one Muslim President, an extremely powerful Dalit chief minister — are these the signifiers of a hindu upper caste state? In fact, what is the signifier of such an entity? Last time I checked, the most elite, snobbish and (hence) vied for educational institution in this country is controlled by Christians. It may be a nice turn of phrase, but once you have made the jump from fiction to political writing, a certain degree of honesty and calibration is called for.

3. Many have pointed out that Geelani spoke in a mature manner in the seminar in Delhi. Of course one must understand the word mature in a relative sense. To some the claim that “In azad kashmir, muslims will be forbidden to drink but non muslims can drink” is indicative of maturity. Sadly, I have a somewhat higher benchmark. In any case, for the lack of active rabble rousing in Geelani’s Delhi performance — I must congratulate him. It is clear that the years have not been wasted on him. He proved that apart from his usual fire-spitting drivel, he can also speak in a suave and sophisticated manner. The question here is short – so? On the evidence of relative restraint in one speech should we excuse this man’s religious fundamentalism which has a somewhat more extensive record? Well Mr. Advani has been trying this tactic unsuccesfully for years. Yet he is (justifiably) still held to account for the criminal act of the pulling down the Babri masjid. Next time, when Narendra Modi, appears to speak in a restrained manner about “5 crore Gujaratis which includes muslims” I expect to see Geelani’s caravan of promoters rushing to remind us that Modi has turned a new leaf.

4. With my very limited understanding of political theory, I usually take the word “azadi” (freedom) when used in the political sense to mean a politically free (ie, independent) state. Independence implies being free of the control of other nation states. Mr. Geelani’s call for azadi has consistently advocated a union with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which at least on paper, is a nation state in its own right.  Geelani has made his position clear on this on multiple occasions. My question to his new found band of delhi-based promoters — are you also supporting azadi in the same sense? Or maybe independence the way JKLF supports it? Or maybe anything goes as long as we feel we have done our bit in “weakening” the evil edifice of the Indian state? Or maybe in the “saala kya farq padta hai, akhbaar mein photo aa gayi” sense?


‘Far away, in that other fake democracy called India’: so said Arundhati Roy in a passing reference to India when she began her talk at the finale of the Left Forum 2010 in New York in the middle of March. Fake democracy? Yet in the same month her long essay ‘Walking With the Comrades,’ supporting the struggle of the CPI (Maoist) in the tribal areas, was published by a mainstream, corporate-controlled Indian magazine, Outlook. How would that be possible if India were just a ‘fake’ democracy?
– Rohini Hensman

The erudite Rohini Hensman asks this question, ironically enough, on Kafila (link)

To the best of my limited knowledge, Ms. Roy has not responded. If she has, somebody please enlighten me. Or maybe she won’t given her magisterial ways. In which case maybe one of her apologists can provide an answer. I know you lurk around on this blog, in fact we all know who you are, so show your face and provide an answer.

6. “India is a fake democracy”. Repeat after me. “India is a fake democracy”. Rinse and repeat. “India is a hindu upper caste state”. Oh good, come and join the left-liberal bandwagon. Now that you are an admitted member of the club, child, go on and say whatever the fuck that comes to your mind – but remember, the more caustic you make it, the higher you will rise in the ranks. And don’t you forget to collect all state-funded scholarships on the way. My question is, why is the (still influential) genuine left-liberal opinion in this country, of which I consider myself a tiny and insignificant part, allowing this scam to take place in its name?


Well written Ritwik. I am proud of you. You have raised same thought provokening questions about Ms Roy’s statement and today’s Kashmir.
so sad ..a booker prize winner saying this..is she aware that she’s insulting the martyrdom of thousands of soldiers who fought and dead for it. whats public openion?? throwing all india supporters out of valley …remaining idiots participate in voting??bring back all kashmiri pandits and then put voting..not alone these pashtoon pakisthani tribes..all intruders of kashmir are now leaders there…what about pok..can anybody make pakisthanis vacate the place..then anybody can talk about kashmir..they’re real well wishers of kashmiris..giving independence to kashmir means feeding terrorists to slit our throats..see about khazak and other govt and other govt less countrys..whats their position now..see what is pakisthan now..a democracy less ethicless ruthless country..kashmir will be the same if it’s independent. Its an unavoidable truth.

by manisha Kulshreshtha on November 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm. #

Question number six cracked me up but also hints at something more dangerous. As you’d pointed out once, its a worrying trend of apathy and ‘why get into it’ attitude.
Simple questions no one seems to ask.Arundhati Roy always seemed to me as a woman seeking controversy for the sake of controversy. And seems to take her role as the self-appointed critic of India a little too seriously.

by Neelakshi on November 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm. #

Kudos Ritwik!! An extremely well thought out post. Especially commendable is the manner in which you have managed to highlight ‘the band-wagon’ effect that plagues the Left today.

Studying in an academic institution where the majority claim to be part of the left-liberal political thought, what concerns me the most is the uncritical, cursory, at times one dimensional approach taken by most to arrive at their ‘judgements’ on such issues. “Anti-State” as you rightly point out has indeed become a fad. Any persons/ statements/ movements that call for the ‘Furies’ to be released upon the State are to be supported, irrespective of the contextual realities of the situation in question.

I hold nothing against the freedom of speech. The right to dissent is probably the most important pillar supporting any successful democracy. Democracy gains its legitimacy and dynamism from the dialectical interplays in operation and devoid of the latter there remains nothing to prevent a democracy from turning into a totalitarian state. However, the nature of dissent and the grounds for its materialisation are as important as the act of dissent itself. Without the former what we are left with is something hollow; a biased, myopic counter-narrative of sorts…a la Arundhati Roy article on the poor, brave freedom fighters –the Maoists.

‘Dissent for dissent’s sake’- is this what the Left has been reduced to?
The Left (here I mean the so-called intelligentsia claiming to belong to Left liberal ideology) has often criticised Modern Neo-Populist thought especially the latter’s manner of opposition to Globalisation for it ‘ignores structural realities and presents a universal, romanticised definition of the peasantry’, something which they claim completely abuses the all important question on land. Their basic grievance with the above viewpoint is its critical shallowness.

But what the “Delhi-based supporters” are committing themselves to, can hardly be termed as critical praxis itself!! The problem that I have personally noted is the unilateral manner of assessing and supporting all ‘Anti-New Delhi’ programmes. The Maoist narrative is accorded the same legitimacy as the Naga movement and the call for ‘azadi’ shares a common platform with the Telangana issue. Why? Because all are raising voices against the Big Bad Wolf…I mean State.
Issues have to be understood in their context.

Do the people of Kashmir deserve justice? Yes.
Is there any justification for AFSPA? I really cannot think of one.

But should the Left be supporting a call for ‘azadi’; a movement that clearly smacks of communal flavour? Geelani’s religious fundamentalism, after all, is no hidden secret.

My point is not to go into the intricacies of the azadi movement (it’s being done all over the place) but to re-iterate what you mention in the end- the band wagon effect. Would we see the same supporters celebrating the PFI in the future if it plays the ‘Anti-State’ bugle?

The band-wagon effect is particularly catching on with the youth. I wonder whether the ‘be-a-rebel’ tag and the baggage attached with it (coolness/ distinction/acceptance into an exclusive circle) has to play any role in it?

I would love to read your thoughts on this issue. Cheers!!

by pn on November 2, 2010 at 11:09 pm. #

@PN: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Must say that I agree with almost every word you have written here. I would like to add that the band-wagon effect and “dissent for dissent’s sake” are leading to a rapid erosion of the credibility of the left in the eyes of many – not only independent thinkers but also the “masses”. It is ironical that the left has managed to construct a certain ivory-tower intellectualism of its own, which excludes the masses whose interests the left claims to represent. What is worse is that this intellectualism is based on half-truths, propaganda and erroneous “consensus” of the sort you describe in your post.

This is but a natural corollary of treating facts and truth not as ends in themselves, but as mere tools to establish pre-conceived ideological positions.

by Ritwik Agrawal on November 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm. #

Ritwik. Too a great extent you are right. Arundhati seems to be reminding us that she is the Arun Shouri of left. It seems that her understanding of kashmir or freedom or indian democracy refuses to see the truth in its completeness. But i have seen and felt it several times that hatred and anger against Arundhati doesnot arise due to her style or logic, but for the sheer fact that she stands for Naxals or kashmiries. Indian democracy is fake or real, but certainly it has broader scopes which allow Arundhati to speak out her mind.
But these scopes allow others also to invade the basic principles of democracy and produce a fake version of it. And certainly, this fake version is crueler and far more corrupt which ignores its brutality and crimes. Both, Naxal affected areas and kashmir share the same brutality of Indian state and it connects them. Unfortunately the mindset of mainland and urban India refuses to see beyond that democratic set up which ensures all kinds of privileges to it.
Arundhati’s anger and fire is directed to this mindset which is pre dominantly sawarn hindu and to this fake democratic set up.
Still you have raised important questions regarding kashmir’s freedom and its so called leaders.

by priyadarshan on November 7, 2010 at 9:35 pm. #

Arundhati’s anger is part and parcel of loony leftism which must construct a scapegoat on which it can enact its jihad. Hence there is no differentiated or critical thinking, no engagement with either questions of history and culture or for that matter questions of pluralistic democratic space and issues of gender. Instead of any critical analysis, the key technique used is emotional propoganda. Thus instead of analysing violence, an image of state violence is used but now one in which children are blown up, or women have acid thrown on them. No questions pertaining to kashmiri language, culture, philosophical and cosmological contexts are addressed. No questions are addressed as to the geographical links with the other himalayan regions – including that of Ladakh and Jammu. Arundhati has a simplist ideology much like Goebels. ‘Hindu’ are bad. They are all upper caste and the islamists are good. Nowhere does she even consider that ‘hindu’ was a blanket term created as the other of monotheism, roots that she herself shares and has evidently internalised. Critical enquiry starts with the asking of difficult questions from the context of ethical responsability. But those who strive to be icons – as does Roy – never question their own priveleged propertied croredom. Instead they ludicrously claim to be speaking for the ‘downtrodden’ as their passport to lecturing in the very ‘west’ they systematically oppose. There is nothing like the self hatred of this pathetic breed

by Giti Thadani on November 22, 2010 at 10:54 am. #

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